Today brings us to the penultimate couple of World Cup games in the second phase, between Brazil and Mexico, followed by Belgium against Japan in the evening match.
Brazil have shown some glimpses of wonderful football in the tournament, but they have yet to really turn on the style throughout, but with Philip Coutinho on the rise on the international stage, and with Neymar Junior seeking to exert his dominance in this World Cup, this afternoon might just be the perfect time to do so. However, Mexico will be a tricky opponent for them, with the likes of Javier Hernandez and Hirving Lozano more than able to cause an upset against the Brazilians.
This by no means will be an easy match for either side, but we can come to expect some high quality football and a game full of football entertainment, almost all but guaranteed. Brazil boss Tite has a bit of a selection headache, in that both fullbacks Marcelo and Danilo are a doubt for this match, but they do have Fagner and Felipe Luis able to deputise, plus, Casemiro, Neymar and Coutinho are all one booking away from suspension. Brazil will start with a 4-3-3 formation, expecting to more or less field the same team (as usual), with Willian, Jesus and Neymar in attack , with Coutinho, Casemiro and Paulinho in midfield, then with Thiago Silva and Miranda as centre backs.
Mexico have centre back Hector Moreno suspended, so Hugo Ayala will deputise alongside Carlos Salcedo, with Hector Herrera, Miguel Layun and Jesus Gallardo all one booking away from suspension. But, will Mexico be able to progress past Brazil in order for those earlier bookings to even matter? Well, as we’ve already seen the elimination of Portugal, Argentina, Germany and Spain only yesterday, this is truly a World Cup where anything can happen, so we can expect Mexico to be up for the fight. Brazil might be feeling the pressure to perform, and with Carlos Vela, Chicharito and Hirving Lozano able to cause problems to the Brazil defensive line, since they’re missing their preferred full backs, but just as to how exactly the game will go, is anyone’s guess…
Match Prediction: Brazil v Mexico 2-1 or Over 2.5 goals
In the evening match, it’s Belgium v Japan, with many tipping Belgium to go all the way, and with a full squad to choose from, despite some fitness complaints from Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku, both are expected to be fit just in time for this key match. Manager Roberto Martinez may opt to rest one of them, before bringing them on in the second half, with Lukaku the more likely to feature later on, with Michy Batshuayi deputising. However, Lukaku and Hazard rested in the last game, so could play from he start. In hindsight, Belgium couldn’t have asked for an easier team to play against, but Japan will not be pushovers, with their tireless running and then hoping to hit Belgium on the counter attack. Belgium are unlikely to change their back three of Boyata, Alderweireld and Vertonghen, but Kompany or Vermaelen could feature after playing a part against England. Adnan Januzaj could feature off the bench, after netting that beautiful winner against the Three Lions.
Japan will filed their regular strongest side, after Akira Nishino made changes in the last 1-0 loss against Poland, securing qualification by a hairline on 4 points, coming down to FIFA fairplay seeing Senegal eliminated. Ouch, that’s got to hurt! Shinji Kagawa, Takashi Inui, Yuya Osaka and Mateo Hasebe will all return to the side, but Keisuke Honda would be a smart choice to start, for extra firepower in this crucial game. The land of the rising sun are not expected to progress from this match, but with a full squad of health and a team spirit that’s grown, could Japan cause the mother of all upsets? Japan will look to frustrate their opponents from the start, but we expect Belgium to be far superior and run out comfortable winners in the end.
Although, Belgium will win this game, Japan could score and we know that many penalties have already been given in this tournament, so it’s not unlikely that Japan will get a goal at some point. If Belgium get knocked out, then that will really be a story for the ages.
Match Prediction: Belgium v Japan 3-1 or Over 2.5 goals
Story by The Narrator
Featured Photo Credit: FIFA.com